Can't Keep up? Make a Waiting For List
You live in a world that depends on other people to get work done. On any day you could be waiting for a handful of people to take action on something before you can take the next step on a project. So how do you keep track of all those items?
In Getting Things Done (GTD), David Allen recommends creating a "waiting for" list that shows everything you are waiting for others to do. It's recommended you date each item so that if you have to follow-up with someone, you have a solid timeline. Remember this list is for items that require your attention after you have completed your part. (Sometimes you delegate work and you don't have to follow-up.)
Last month I won free tickets to a play at a local theater in town. The theater said I would receive an email with instructions for ordering my tickets. The day I won the tickets, I put "email from Stages Theater about free tickets won at Creative Mornings" in my waiting for list. Notice how specific I got, which also included the date I won the tickets as a reference.
Almost a full month later I still had not received the email, so I went to the theater website and filled out a contact form requesting information for my free tickets. The next day I got an email with clear instructions and an apology from the theater, because the lady in charge of my tickets was on vacation!
If I had not put this item in my waiting for list, I might have forgotten about the show all together. Thanks to this helpful tool, I was able to see a great show with my wife because it wasn't forgotten.
There are more important items that can go on your waiting for list than free tickets to a play. What if you're waiting for a proposal to be written, an invoice to be paid, or a doctor's report to come in? The waiting for list becomes a necessity in cases like these.
And most importantly, if you have multiple items pending at the same time, this tool is a worry free alternative to ensure things don't fall through the cracks.
In order to get started, get out a blank piece of paper, set a timer for ten minutes and write down everything you are waiting for from someone else. Feel free to move this list into your todo app and make sure you visit this list at regularly scheduled intervals, or set reminders on your calendar for those time sensitive items.
You will be amazed at how smart you look when you follow-up with a cold lead, a delayed email, or a software update when the rest of the world around you lets these little things slip between the cracks in this busy world.
Do you have any stories about how your waiting for list saved you from trouble? Let me know in the comments.